Next week front-office executives and personnel will meet in Orlando, Florida for the 2013 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings. For those unfamiliar with what these meetings consist of, a large majority of it is focused on team's looking to make moves with one another, mostly through trades and free-agent signings.
Texas has been fairly active this offseason, trading for Prince Fielder and Michael Choice, while also re-signing Geovany Soto and extending Martin Perez's contract. Despite the moves that have already been made, there is still room for Texas to bolster its roster heading into 2014. Here are three moves the Rangers should look to accomplish during this year's winter meetings.
Acquire a Third Outfielder
This is a move that seems to have been on the radar since the offseason began. It wasn't too long ago that outfielder Craig Gentry appeared to be the team's starting left fielder heading into 2014. Then Texas made a trade with its division rival Oakland Athletics, swapping Gentry for some young talent in Michael Choice.
It's possible that Choice could be a starting outfielder for Texas heading into this season, but there's no reason to think the job is his just yet.
Simply put, Choice is not much more than raw talent that could one day develop into a solid outfielder. He made his rookie debut last season with the Athletics, appearing in nine games while recording 18 plate appearances. He managed five hits and one walk in his limited plate appearances, finishing his brief campaign with a .278 average and .316 on-base percentage.
Most of Choice's potential was seen throughout his four years in the minors where he has hit a lifetime .290 with 82 doubles, 61 homers and 225 RBI. He was drafted 10th overall in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft, so expectations are certainly high for the 24-year old outfielder. However, he may not be ready to live up to them just yet.
With guys like Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz and even Nate McLouth available, Texas would be smart to find a proven veteran. Choo and Cruz are likely the two hottest outfielders on the market as it stands right now. Consider McLouth an option strictly due to his recent performance over the last year and a half or so.
According to Evan Grant of DallasNews.com, the acquisition of Choice hasn't deterred them from pursing a big named free agent, in particular Shin-Soo Choo. Texas met with Choo recently to discuss signing him, and while there is no deal in place at this time, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rangers offer him one.
It's hard to not fall in love with a player like Choo, who finished fourth in the league with a .423 on-base percentage in 2013. Signing Choo would be a huge move for the Rangers, as he would be a great compliment to power hitters like Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.
Solidify the Catcher Position
Yes, the Rangers signed Geovany Soto to kickoff the offseason. While Texas claims he will be its starting catcher in 2014, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best decision.
Soto's career has been one largely filled with mediocrity. He's a lifetime .248 hitter, and he's noticeably backtracked from his 2008 rookie campaign during which he hit .285 with 23 homers and 86 RBI. He hit .245 with the Rangers last season in 163 at-bats and has hit higher than that average only once since his rookie year, hitting .280 in 2010.
Unfortunately, you'd be hard pressed to find a catcher on the free-agent market who could be considered better than Geovany Soto. The youngest catcher available is Lou Marson, who is a career .219 hitter, while guys like John Buck and Ramon Hernandez have been on the decline for the last three or four seasons.
Texas' most likely option for acquiring a solid catcher would likely come via trade, but there aren't many teams looking to deal their best backstop. The only option that seems remotely possible would be a trade for Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
The biggest problem the Rangers would have in trading for a catcher is that they have top prospect Jorge Alfaro waiting for his shot in the majors. He likely won't be ready this season, but should Soto struggle, an early promotion could be in order. If Texas doesn't make a move for a catcher, expect that Soto will indeed be the team's starting catcher heading into 2014.
Find an Everyday Designated Hitter
Mitch Moreland's playing time in 2014 officially became a question when the Rangers went out and acquired Prince Fielder. With Fielder now being viewed as the team's everyday first baseman, Moreland has become expendable due to his second-half struggles last season.
Moreland is likely to see most of his playing time next season against right-handed pitching. Since 2011, he has hit .258 off righties, while his average against lefties has dropped to .238. Combining his lifetime average against right-handed pitching and last season's struggles, finding a replacement for Moreland could be a smart move for Texas to make.
One player who hasn't garnered much attention is free agent Corey Hart. I think Hart would be a risk worth taking should Texas sign him. According to Drew Silva of NBCSports.com, Hart was recently cleared to resume baseball activities after missing all of 2013 due to surgeries on both of his knees.
When healthy, Hart is a power threat who also hits for a nice average against both lefties and righties. In his last healthy season, Hart hit .270 with 30 homers and 83 RBI for the Milwaukee Brewers. Twice in his career, he has hit 30 or more home runs, and he managed to drive in a career-high 102 RBI in 2010. When healthy he has been a model of consistency at the plate, and he has proven his ability to drive in runs.
The knee injuries will certainly draw concern for any club looking to sign him, but that won't stop teams from offering him a one-year contract to see what he can still contribute.
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